Remembering James Semark
John Sinclair‘s upcoming Higher Ground column to be posted here Wednesday (and, of course, on the street in the “hard copy” as we say) eulogizes the poet and cultural activist James Semark, who was one of the founders of the Detroit Artists Workshop in the ’60s and integral to efforts in recent years to commemorate and revive that movement, a sort of Ground Zero for counter culture in Detroit, in its myriad manifestations.
“When I first met James Semark, shortly after I moved to Detroit in 1964, there weren’t many weirdos, but he was definitely one of them,” recalls Sinclair, who goes on to talk about the intersection of pot, poetry and politics that he, Semark and a small circle of others inhabited back then.
Likewise, Cary Loren of the Book Beat has offered an appreciation of Semark at the essential bookstore’s website: “James Semark: Galactic Mind Forever, R.I.P.” It reads in part:
James was a tall, quiet, even-tempered and soft spoken person, but could suddenly and spontaneously ignite an audience with his blazing rhythmic oration and fiery live performances. James was equally influenced by occult writings and world religions as he was by beat poets and jazz artists. He often took on cosmic topics, questions about space, time and the universe, the origins of mankind, drugs and illusion. …
He could be over-the-top, extreme and repetitive, reciting, “OH! EYE! OH EYE! YOU!” for pages and it wasn’t always easy to digest, but his enthusiasm, humor and eternal conversation with Gods and prehistoric monsters were fascinating to watch, and something to be discussed over the next millennium.
Last year, Semark oversaw the creation of Work/6, linking the DAW’s ’60s mimeograph mag with contemporary work. My notes from looking at the manuscript noted the line — and I apologize for not noting or being sure of the writer — “Talk is cheap, but work is/ Forever. …” Semark was one of our cultural workers, leaving his lasting work with us.